With cars like the Toyota 86, Volkswagen GTI, Mazda MX-5 and other petrol-powered driver-focused cars, we are living through a good car era.
It won’t last long so we should enjoy it.
I’ve just spent a week cruising through my neighbourhood in a 2019 Toyota 86 TRD SE and I affirmatively soaked in every second of the experience. This car, perhaps more than any other, is the embodiment of cheap thrills for pure driving enthusiasts.
Power is secondary
From the moment it landed for the 2012 model year, the car was met with equal amounts of praise and bitching. The “objective” grievances were limited to a lack of power, not to be misconstrued with performance. There is, and always will be, beauty in working for speed.
The Toyota 86 (ex-Scion FR-S) and Subaru BRZ call upon the driver’s determination and skills to maintain momentum. And when done right, the rewards are mighty. This is especially true when the car is equipped with the fabulously brilliant 6-speed manual transmission.
Working for a change
This 2-door, front-engine-d, RWD, row-your-own-gears car provides the driver with all the necessary tools to create a memorable driving experience. Sure, the harder you stomp on the throttle, the faster you’ll go but progress won’t be instantaneous; you’ll need to be patient, think, look, plan and work. And when done right, I think only a hole-in-one in golf feels as gratifying.
Do you run? I used to and the runner’s high, however brief it was, served in part to motivate me to go at it again in 48 hours. This “feeling of euphoria coupled with reduced anxiety and a lessened ability to feel pain” is also real and experienced when the Toyota 86 is driven properly.
As a final note on the 2019 Toyota 86, do not bother with the new $38,220 TRD SE version. The extra aero, 18-inch wheels, loud exhaust and interior bits change nothing in the car’s overall behaviour. The best 86 is the naked and basic 6M $29.990. Keep the change for tires, brake pads and weekend track events.
The times we are living in
We are currently participating and living in a time of change. Twenty years from now, we’ll look back on the first quarter of the 21st Century as a golden age of compact performance cars. Although a new Toyota 86 is now expected (news landed after video was done), true sports cars like the 86 and all the aforementioned vehicles will slowly but surely disappear.
If this does come to be, it will more than likely not be as a result of consumers and enthusiasts no longer wanting these cars. Legislation, laws and emissions will force carmakers to cut back production of these cars, forcibly increasing pricing, limiting sales only to eventually see them cut from the roster altogether.
OEMs are giving us what we want while they can
Before that’s to happen, brands like Toyota are hard at work feeding our need for speed, fueling nostalgia and giving true car lovers what they want while they still can. The new Toyota Supra and now “mostly” confirmed 2nd generation 86 are proof that the fat lady’s not yet sung.
Other brands like Chevrolet, Dodge, BMW, Hyundai and Volkswagen are frontloading their current line-ups with cool cars before a page of history is turned on the internal combustion engine. VW in fact has announced this latest generation of cars and utility vehicles will be the last to require petrol as a source of energy. If a player as huge as Volkswagen has such plans, other manufacturers will surely follow before long.
EVs are not quite the end…
Not all is dismal and dark going forward however. If anything, performance and speed will not die. Cars like the Tesla Model 3 are nothing if not all about driving and if we’re to believe what Porsche and Audi are up to, this is only the beginning.
The major disillusionment will be, and I hope I’m wrong, that actual “driving” will be completely lost as a skill and, I’d go so far as to say, an art form. All of these EVs are immensely sophisticated with more computing power than a dozen space shuttles combined and as such, the driver is practically redundant.
Today, in 2019, we still have the opportunity to actually be in control and drive, and we need to take advantage of the moment while we can. My week with the 2019 Toyota 86 reminded me how good and enjoyable being in control can be. You all need to be reminded too.